Maybe I’ve been working in higher education for too long. Maybe I’ve been on either side of a church pulpit one too many times. Maybe I’ve had one too many sleepless nights with deep thoughts. Whatever the reason, God always finds ways to make my mind connect with weird and random parallels that many people might not see.
Now that Ashley and I have settled in to a rhythm of sorts here in Columbia, we have one last little box to tick off before we can declare this place as home: finding a church. Now, for some people, this is a relatively simple exercise. You have denominational ties. You have friends who attend a specific house of worship. You attend based on the proximity of the church to where you reside. You don’t give a crap about going to church and this isn’t a priority to you.
But for those of us who don’t have a readily accessible network of friends to hook into and attend church with, for those of us carry baggage or scars from other churches we’ve attended, for those of us who don’t have a strong pull (or repel) for a specific denomination, and/or who want to find someplace that’s…well, authentic…this is a difficult struggle.
Which makes me just roll my eyes and sigh deeply when I look around and realize that trying to find a new church is a lot like going through rush. (For the non-Greek/non-collegiate amongst you, this means pledging a fraternity or sorority.)
Think about it: you’ve just moved to a new community, much like it’s your freshman year at college. While you’re still in orientation, you start to determine how you will want to spend your time – what organizations you will want to join, if you will. You seek out this specific group of like-minded individuals. You show up at a house. Everyone you meet for the first time is all smiles and they’re welcoming you in, telling you how great it is to meet you. Everyone is dressed nice – I mean, you don’t want to come overdressed or underdressed. Otherwise, what might people think about you in that first impression? The people in this house – the brothers and sisters, if you will – tell you ad nauseum about the community within the house, about what all they do out in the community to interact with or help others (almost as if it’s a service project of sorts). These first few meetings are very shallow in some ways, very surface level: you’re both sizing up one another, trying to determine if you’re a good fit for one another. Nothing is wrong with the organization. No dirty laundry. No cracks in the veneer. Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.
After a period of weighing options, if you decide to join a specific organization, there is a period of pledging; or, if you prefer to cal it thus, a membership class. Now, as a layperson/chapter member, one might begin to see that some of the brothers and sisters who courted you so heavily at the outset may not be exactly who or what they claimed to be. Some may be extremely shallow, speaking ill of others houses, organizations, or even others members of your own group. Some may believe that your house exists only to edify your local chapter or your national affiliation/denomination. Some may be there only for the party aspect that comes from being a member. Some may be there only because they’re a legacy: mom/dad/aunt/uncle have always belonged to this specific chapter.
If you get elevated from a layperson/chapter member to being able to obtain a leadership role, you may begin to see even deeper into the problems in your house. Your chapter president may not be as active or deeply involved in the lives of the members as he or she lets on in your weekly meetings. You may be asked to take on additional roles or responsibilities you don’t think you’re adequately prepared for. The leaders above you may start to ask for you to volunteer more and more of your time for the organization, never looking to see how you’re managing your time, or to see if you’re balanced.
After some time, it may get to be too much for you, and you go Inactive.
Now, this does not mean that all the people you meet while pledging or after you join your group are bad. Some of the closest friendships I still have to this day (shoutout to Texas) came from my time in the trenches in my organization. I just have the luxury/millstone around my neck in that I can see this funky little allegory (as stated above) from a number of various angles.
I just find it ironic that in a number of churches, the leaders of these organizations probably attended a private, religiously-affiliated institution for their Bachelor’s degree. And the vast, vast majority of these institutions do not have a Greek system with nationally-affiliated fraternities or sororities. Funny that pop isn’t the only thing that will apparently eat itself.